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Wild Sheep Society of BC Spreads Word on Separation as Part of the Solution at BC’s 2018 Interior Provincial Exhibition (IPE)


October 2, 2018

The Wild Sheep Society of British Columbia (WSSBC) appeared formally for the first time at the annual Interior Provincial Exhibition (IPE) Fair in Armstrong, BC, where WSSBC served as a sponsor and educated the public about the disease threat to wild sheep from contact with domestic sheep and goats. The IPE fair, in its 119th year, is the largest of its kind in the province and took place Aug. 29 through Sept. 2, 2018. This inaugural WSSBC appearance was the result of a partnership between the WSSBC and the BC Sheep Separation Program in support of a local 4-H lamb club and capitalized on the fact that the 2018 IPE Fair celebrated its Sheep Division by creating a “sheep theme” for the entire event. With over 150,000 people visiting the fairgrounds, WSSBC found the fair a perfect opportunity to build relationships between the wildlife conservation and agricultural communities by promoting an understanding of the risk of respiratory disease transmission between domestic small ruminants (sheep and goats) and wild sheep.

WSSBC educational materials and volunteers were present in a display booth at the 4-H Show Barn, the location where five days of 4-H lamb shows and shearing demonstrations were held. Throughout the event, WSSBC was publicly recognized as a major sponsor as well as a dedicated wild-sheep conservation organization. During shearing demonstrations and between cowboy poetry readings, Jeremy Ayotte with the BC Sheep Separation Program publicly spoke, explaining WSSBC’s mission.

In the 4-H Showmanship and Market Lamb Grand Champion classes, WSSBC provided high-quality folding chairs with the 4-H and WSSBC logos side-by-side, with the chairs conferred as awards to 4-H winning contestants. All participants who brought sheep to the fair also received a BC Sheep Separation Program tote bag with the words “Healthy wild sheep and healthy sheep farming in BC” and containing an embroidered t-shirt with the words “MOVI Tested,” as well as information pamphlets on the risk of disease transmission from domestic sheep to wild sheep.

On one of the final days of the fair, a public auction was held to sell 4-H lambs and raise money for a local charity. WSSBC bid up the price of three lambs that had been raised M.ovi-free as result of an earlier project with local 4-H kids and Dr. Scott Mann. The 4-H students collected nasal swabs and learned more about disease transmission, including the ways farmers and ranchers are finding ways to operate with less impact on wild sheep. The crowd hearing about the project expressed interest and approval, giving hope for more educational outreach and collaboration between wild-sheep conservation and agricultural community members in the future.

According to WSSBC, the information they shared over the five-day event was very well received and led to positive feedback. Many members of the public in attendance revealed that they had never before heard of the wild and domestic sheep disease issue and were eager to learn more. The 2018 IPE will hopefully be the first of many like efforts, according to WSSBC. In the meantime, WSSBC continues to work closely with the BC Sheep Separation Program to create a positive, science-driven working relationship between agriculture and wildlife conservation while endeavoring to reduce the risk of respiratory disease transmission and persistence in BC’s wild sheep herds.

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